So I guess we’re doing this. Or at least I am. Here comes the truth bomb that everyone needs to hear: College football’s dog-and-pony bowl season flat-out sucks. It consists of a lot of bad football, played in random-ass locations, in front of sparse crowds, with absolutely nothing on the line. And I’m done pretending otherwise.
Credit to Mike, who I believe was having a good time. But this is not what I want to see when I turn on a football game.
Great day for a bowl game. Good crowd for the Myrtle Beach Bowl. pic.twitter.com/DMBdHScFTk— Mike (@mike_h1990) December 16, 2023
On Dec. 16 when the prestigious Myrtle Beach Bowl kicked off – marking the first of 43 bowl games – there seemed to be a whole lot of celebrating going on among CFB fans. Gamblers rejoiced and joined in on the celebration as well. Because we (including myself as a CFB fan and a gambler, not a bowl season observer) were or would be getting 40+ ‘bonus’ games to watch and place bets on, while hopefully enjoying some time off from work, school, etc.
And who doesn’t love or want more of a good thing, especially during the holidays? Who doesn’t enjoy watching college football while also wrapping presents? Or while throwing down a few midday cocktails because you need a break from shopping — or from your ridiculous family?
Well, I’ll tell ya who: This guy. It’s me.
Not only do I not worship at the altar of bowl season; I actually and actively hate it! Call me the CFB Grinch if you like, but bowl football is bad football. And unlike pizza or se... (trying to be semi-appropriate, but you know what I mean, you old sailor), it’s not good even when it’s bad. These games are a ‘bonus’ in the same way that Clark Griswold’s Jelly of the Month membership was a bonus.
Because several of these non-New Year’s Six bowl games feature teams that finished with a .500 record — or worse. So, like, what are we doing here? Why are we celebrating mediocrity in exotic locations such as Frisco, Texas (Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl)? Why would I possibly be interested or invested in watching Georgia Southern’s quarterback, who was the No. 45 pro-style QB in the 2018 recruiting class, lead his 6-6 team against 9-3 Ohio University without the Bobcats’ starting quarterback and leading rusher, in front of 8,059 fans (Myrtle Beach Bowl). Seriously! Why!?
It’s bad, bad football, y’all. And that bad football has been even more diluted by the sport’s ‘governing body’. The NCAA, with its stupid schedule and even stupider free agency rules, has put players, coaches, and programs in a tough spot by asking a.k.a. forcing them to prepare for these games while simultaneously mapping out their future(s). No big deal, right? It essentially comes down to this: Play or take proper time to determine the next step in your (playing) career. Or: Coach and build/retain next year’s roster.
As a result, half (maybe more?) of these teams roll into their respective bowl game(s) with a depleted roster and guys – both on the field and on the sideline – lacking focus, experience, cohesion, you name it. So I ask again, using different verbiage: How is this appealing? How/why is it even good for the game?
If I were arguing against myself, I would point out that bowl games provide opportunities — for backups, young players, assistant coaches and/or analysts, even families. For example, the latter might get to visit beautiful Detroit, Michigan, and watch a family member participate in the Quick Lane Bowl. And that’s awesome. I am genuinely happy for those individuals. But there is absolutely no reason for most of us to be or get excited about Bowling Green vs. Minnesota.
I mean, let’s just be honest with each other. Did you watch the Quick Lane Bowl? 40% capacity at Ford Field, with BG’s quarterback leading his third collegiate team against a career backup for Minnesota, who completed 8-of-16 passes for 26 yards...
For what? What was the reward? What pleasure did you or any other viewer take from the Quick Lane Bowl, other than possibly winning a few bucks on a parlay? Was somebody out there rooting for P.J. Fleck to get his 50th win at Minnesota? If so, congrats! I hope the Fleck hive thoroughly enjoyed itself. Hell of a 6-7 season. Below is a sampling of the attention this FOOTBALL game really got:
Minnesota's 5th-year backup QB Cole Kramer wasn't supposed to play in the Quick Lane Bowl, let alone start.— BroBible (@BroBible) December 27, 2023
He was going to move to Arizona, get married in February and begin his career in sales. Life is unpredictable!
Details: https://t.co/z8ZnEr71cX https://t.co/z8ZnEr71cX
The other argument I get from bowl season sickos is that these games fill a void in the sports calendar during the holidays. But that is a total fallacy. Roughly half of this year’s CFB bowl games have been or will be played on (a) Saturday. Half of the other half were/will be played at night when a sports fan could just as easily find NBA, NCAA basketball, or some other kind of action. So we’re talking 10-15 games played during a weekday afternoon. Maybe. And even then, there are better options.
Do you want to know what I watched Tuesday afternoon, instead of that wretched Quick Lane Bowl? I watched an English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Aston Villa. And it was freaking awesome. I would watch a thousand of those before one bowl game featuring a mid-tier MAC team and a Big Ten cellar dweller... and I say that as a passionate college football fan.
But, I want to watch, gamble on, and talk about college football games that are actually worth a damn. And I’m not convinced that even the ‘big’ bowl games deserve our collective attention, other than the CFP and those featuring our favorite team(s). Especially this year.
Look at the Orange Bowl, for example. Thanks to opt-outs, transfers, and Florida State possibly getting the shaft, the “dream” matchup is going to feature second and third-stringers playing in a game with no title implications. This means that several players and coaches likely don’t care (as much). And if you need proof, look no further than the fact that Kirby Smart and Mike Norvell couldn’t even be bothered to participate in a news conference for the game.
So spare me the half-hearted takes that “bowl SZN” is awesome. It’s not. And I think that we would all be a little better off if we just stopped living this ludicrous lie.